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Cultivating Dismodernity: The Meanings of Maize and Agricultural Development in Mexico's Central Highlands

CGS Brown Bag Lecture Series
Jan 29, 2014
01:30 PM to 02:30 PM
124 Sparks

Emma Gaalaas Mullaney, Penn State

Agricultural development programs in Mexico have been consistently pushing for the replacement of traditional maize cultivars with “improved”, “modern” scientifically-bred varieties for over 70 years, and yet the overwhelming majority of Mexican maize area remains planted with farmer-bred varieties to this day. The country’s Central Highland region is home to some of the world’s foremost centers of maize research, and also to maize-cultivating peasant communities that, though oriented to commercial production, consistently decline to cultivate commercial seed in favor of diverse varieties that they have maintained for generations. Drawing on ethnographic research and oral histories with local maize farmers, agricultural extension agents, and research scientists, this talk will explore how conflicting and contextually-inflected interpretations of modernity and tradition have shaped the agricultural landscape in a region where maize is a primary source of food security, livelihood, cultural identity, and biodiversity.

Emma Gaalaas Mullaney is a dual-degree PhD Candidate in Geography and Women’s Studies. Her dissertation research has been made possible by support from the National Science Foundation, the Society of Women Geographers, the Institute of International Education Boren Fellowship Program, Specialty Groups of the Association of American Geographers, the Center for Global Studies, and several other departments and institutes at Penn State. Since 2010, Emma has also served as a Youth Delegate to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

This lecture is a part of the Center for Global Studies Brown Bag Graduate Lecture Series which focuses on interdisciplinary graduate research.

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